Keeping kids safe from medication poisoning

Checked your medicine cabinet lately? There’s a good chance it’s stuffed with medicines.

In fact, there are more medicines in homes across America than ever before — raising the risk that some of it might fall into the hands of children. More than 59,000 kids across the country were treated in emergency rooms in 2013 — many of them because they got their hands on medicines while parents or other caregivers weren’t watching, especially among kids age 5 and younger.

The problem is compounded by the fact that more children are living or spending time with grandparents — who tend to have more medicines on hand. In fact, the number of children living with a grandparent more than doubled between 1980 and 2014.

“All families with children need to be aware of the risks of medicine poisoning,” said Jennifer Northway, director of the Adult and Pediatric Injury Prevention Program at University Health System. “This includes being vigilant about protecting young children by ensuring safe storage of medicine and teaching older children and teens about medicine safety.”

University Health System has joined a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about this very preventable problem, adding medication safety to two of its parent education classes — Baby U and its Mommies program.

Here are a few tips for parents to keep kids safe: Ages 0-5

  • Make sure all medicine and vitamins are stored out of a child’s reach and sight. Don’t forget risky places such as purses, countertops and nightstands.
  • Include things that don’t immediately come to mind as medicines, such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins and eye drops.
  • Use the dosing device that came with the medicine. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same.
  • Write clear instructions for caregivers about children’s medicines.

Ages 6-10

  • Be a good example. What kids see you do makes a bigger impact than what they hear you say.
  • Teach kids that medicine should always be given by an adult.
  • Don’t refer to medicine as candy.
  • Read medicine labels with your child. As kids get older, it’s important they learn how to read and understand a label before taking medicine.

“Sometimes, parents and caregivers make choices of convenience that unintentionally put children at risk, such as carrying medicine in a purse or storing it in a pillbox,” Ms. Northway said. “Sometimes they don’t recognize that it can take only seconds for a child to get into a medicine. Families may not even realize that products like vitamins or diaper rash products can be very harmful if ingested accidentally.”

Photo by wjgomes/pixabay